A race to remember

Anglesey lies off the north west coast of Wales. On a cold, wet and windy November night, it may not be the first choice of destination for many. But if you were at the island’s eponymous race circuit on the weekend of Remembrance Day, you might understand the draw…

From up on the spectator bank – where on a clear day the views stretch across the Menai straight and on to the imposing mountains of Snowdonia – LED lights pierce the darkness. The air is filled with the sound of buzzing four-cylinder engines and screeching tyres. As cars pass you, rooster tails of spray are kicked up into the air, illuminated red by tail lights, like the glow from an afterburner of a jet fighter taking off from the adjacent RAF Valley.

This is Mission Motorsport’s Race of Remembrance, and taking part in this incredible event is Morgan’s way of honouring the work of the British armed forces, commemorating the fallen, and bringing brighter futures to those returning to civvy street.

Phill Thomas started the race for Aero Racing One

James Cameron, the man behind the event, explained its concept: “Mission Motorsport is a Remembrance service with a race attached. It helps people who are leaving the forces, particularly those who are wounded, injured or sick, to find new futures and support their families.

“The automotive industry needs quality people, and the military has these people in abundance. When they leave the forces, some go off like a rocket and are great successes, but if we allow some to become underemployed, or unemployed, or under a bridge and homeless, or a suicide statistic, then we as a country are falling short. At the event today we have more than 30 beneficiaries, all meeting their individual recovery goals. They’re here to have their horizons broadened and be uplifted.

“It’s absolutely fantastic to have Morgan here. It’s contributing to the variety, and the cars just fit perfectly in this race. They’re so distinctive, very evocative, and very British.”

Ian Payne at the wheel of Aero Racing Two

Morgan had two teams entered. Aero Racing One was a four-car relay team driven by Craig Hamilton-Smith, Tony Hirst, Jon and son Tom Richards, and Phill Thomas. Driving a mix of Plus 4 models, they finished an impressive 18th, from 44 starters.

Paul Voakes and Ian Payne shared Voakes’ Plus 4 Clubsport in Aero Racing Two, taking the chequered flag in 25th position. In the 12 hours of racing, they completed 313 laps, a remarkable 657 miles of flat-out racing, with no major mechanical issues. It’s a testament to the inherent reliability of the highly developed Clubsport machine.

These results are all the more impressive when the calibre of the competition is taken into account. Drivers such as Dario and Marino Franchitti, as well as British Touring Car aces Rob Austin and Tom Ingram, all took part.

The race stopped for 45 minutes on Sunday morning for the Remembrance service

“Yesterday I did a 1 hour 15 minute session in the night, in the brutal wind and rain,” said Hirst. The 2019 Morgan Challenge champion added: “It’s about being pragmatic; it’s not a 20-minute sprint. It’s a balance of being fast and competitive but also looking after the car and keeping out of trouble.”

For Phill Thomas, the race had a very special significance. “My son served in the submarine service and he’s no longer with us. I carry the logo of the submarine service on the car. That’s why my wife and I come up. And to have fun as well.”

“I’m ex-services so the race is very important to me,” added Voakes. “I think the Morgan Motor Company being involved with it is absolutely fantastic.”

After a rainy night, the sun came out and the circuit dried on Sunday morning

“This year we came equipped with LED light bars and tinted the mirrors so the drivers didn’t get glare from the cars behind,” explained Mark Evans, manager of Aero Racing. “The Morgan factory had a big collection for charity which I presented to Mission Motorsport on Friday. It’s all about having fun and enjoying the day, although in the heat of battle the drivers may not see it like that…

”Renowned journalist Richard Meaden was also competing in the event. He summed up: “It’s an unusual place to race, the weather’s always all over the place, and the format is brilliant. It’s just great fun. And to see people from the armed forces realise they have a relevance and something to offer is an amazing thing. Emotionally it’s quite challenging – you meet people and you’re blown away by their stories. I didn’t expect to see Morgan cars racing, but they’re quick. You underestimate them at your peril.”

 

Morgan would like to thank Mission Motorsport, the volunteer mechanics from UWRacing at the University of Wolverhampton and all who attended the race.